When Flora Hall was growing up in Rolla, Missouri, she had a wild idea to dance. She knew there weren’t many opportunities in her small town, so she would go to St. Louis or Chicago to attend summer dance programs.
It was in one of those dance studios that she found a library of dance books and publications for students. It also was where she discovered a state school in Kansas City, Missouri, that had a college ballet program led by Tatiana Dokoudovska and Shirley Weaver. There were photos of both former professional dancers in the book. Tatiana Dokoudovska had danced with the world-famous Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo before eventually starting the dance program at the Conservatory in Kansas City and founding the Civic Ballet of Kansas City in 1957. The Conservatory later became part of the University of Missouri, Kansas City and the Civic Ballet later changed its name to Kansas City Ballet. Shirley Weaver danced with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as well before joining Miss Tania to teach in the Conservatory’s ballet program.
“My teacher had heard of Miss Tania and we decided that I should audition for the program,” said Flo (whose name is Flo Klenklen now). “I came in 1971, met Miss Tania, and started training.”
A Solid Foundation
Flo was not surprised to find Miss Tania was very strict and very old world. It was similar to the type of training she had done through high school. The classes were difficult but to her liking.
Though she admits, “I had a few fights with her. One method Miss Tania used was to make you angry so you would do things she wanted you to do,” Flo recalled. “My favorite memories are when she would coach us. She was a gifted coach. She was very attentive. And she was great with nuances.”
Flo remembered the first time she discovered another of her teachers, Miss Tania’s dear friend, Miss Shirley: “My first experience with Miss Shirley was a surprise. A group of us were in Treadway Hall gathered around the studio with French doors. We peeked through the curtains and saw a girl in ballet class from behind. She was amazing. She could do everything so well. We thought she must have been around 16 years old, but when she turned around, we discovered it was Miss Shirley. She was an incredible dancer. Just beautiful.”
“And Miss Shirley was also a phenomenal teacher. We were lucky to have both Miss Tania and Miss Shirley. In those days, companies weren’t touring much but they knew dancers from New York City Ballet. NYCB dancers were known for their speed and footwork. Some would come to town as Guest Teachers. So because of these ladies, we were exposed to a lot more dance in those days,” said Flo.
When asked about Miss Shirley, Flo recalled: “I was far more shy around Miss Shirley than Miss Tania. Miss Shirley was very quiet and saw everything. She didn’t always speak up, but you certainly figured out what she was thinking.”
After graduation, Flo danced as a member of Kansas City Ballet until 1979.
When Todd Bolender became the Artistic Director of Kansas City Ballet in 1981, Miss Tania recommended he hire Flo as a teacher in the school. During Todd’s tenure, Flo wore many hats in the school from a full-time teacher to school administrator, to summer school organizer in KC, St. Louis, and Crested Butte, Colorado, to school director when needed.
These days you still can find Flo teaching children ages 9 to 11 at Kansas City Ballet School. This will be her 44th year with Kansas City Ballet. “I just stayed in the business,” Flo said. “I can’t believe I’m still involved! But I love being around the children. If you’re doing something to influence their lives, all the better!”
Looking back, Flo admits it was Miss Tania that got her interested in teaching. “I don’t think I would have done that if not for her. She was always encouraging her dancers to teach since dance is a short-lived career for most. So, she pushed teaching a lot,” Flo remembered.
It’s only natural that life starts to come full circle. Flo’s former students and Ballet friends that she’s met through Kansas City Ballet have now started sending the next generation to her for instruction as well. Former Board President and Center Division classmate, Wendy Powell, sent her daughter to Flo years ago. Recently, her granddaughter appeared in class. “That’s been very rewarding that they want to bring their children to me,” Flo said.
A Teaching Legacy Lives On
After graduation, Flo rented a house from Miss Tania while she taught classes and danced in the Civic Ballet. They became wonderful friends and spent many evenings visiting.
Flo considered Miss Tania an artist dedicated to her art. There was a selflessness that she described. A way about her that allowed her to step back and make sure the attention was given to her students. A teacher and friend that truly cared about the people who surrounded her.
“I go back to my most influential person. That was Miss Tania, of course. I’d danced before but I couldn’t say that I knew anything about ballet. She made that possible. She opened the world for me.”
Interested in sharing your own Miss Tania memories?
Those who knew Miss Tania usually have a story. She had a lot of presence. She even spoke four languages. If you have a memory of Miss Tania that you’d like to share with us, please email email@example.com. We’d love to know more!
Support the 2020 Nutcracker Ball
Each year, the Nutcracker Ball celebrates Kansas City Ballet and the artistry of dance. This year’s gala will still go on, but it will be like no other in the Guild’s history. The 2020 Nutcracker Ball will present a private broadcast event on November 21!
Honor Her Legacy
For more information about becoming a member and the different ways you can support Kansas City Ballet through The Tatiana Dokoudovska Legacy Society, please contact Rebecca Zandarski, CFRE, CSPG at 816.216.5597 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography: Flo Klenklen (pictured left).